Solving this case is going to be a long climb
Detective Pat is called out to another park homicide scene with disturbing similarities to the Fish Creek murder. Digging more deeply into the evidence reveals something even more worrisome. If her instincts are right, this case may hit a little too close to home.
Is she just imagining the connections? Or could her family be in real danger?
The clock is ticking as Detective Pat homes in on a killer.
★★★★★P.D. Workman is an incredibly versatile writer. No matter which of her books I read I am drawn into a great story and honestly, I don't think I've followed another author that could go from cozy mystery to YA to a PI series dealing with mental health issues. Really enjoy her books!
Looking for a police procedural set in picturesque Canada? Let Award-winning and Bestselling Author P.D. Workman take you her favourite Calgary parks, as Métis detective Margie Patenaude investigates a murder in this fast-paced new series.
These short mysteries are just right for those days when you could use a break from your busy life. Take a walk in a Calgary park with Parks Pat.
Climb into in a new mystery today!
Release date: September 10, 2021
Publisher: pd workman
Reader says this book is...: entertaining story (2) realistic characters (2) satisfying ending (1) terrific writing (1)
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Behind the book
When I decided that I was going to be writing about murders in Calgary area parks, I knew that one of them would be the Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park. I have been involved in this park since before it was a park. I was legal assistant to the lawyer for the Harvie family, who provided the land for the park. We worked with the family for a number of years and worked with multiple levels of government to get everything lined up and the park created. We helped with the build-out of the park trails and amenities, the establishment of the stewards to help to take care of the park, and much more. In the ten years since the park was opened, I have been involved in a number of roles. I don’t get out to the park as much as I would like to, but it is definitely a special place for me and had to be one of the settings that a Parks Pat Mystery would take place in.
Long Climb to the Top: A quick-read police procedural set in picturesque Canada
Margie Patenaude didn’t need to be a detective to know who had left the dirty dishes in the sink.
“Gotta go, Mom,” Christina said, rushing into the room. She swept her long black hair out of the way as she shouldered her backpack so that it would not get caught under the strap. “The bus will be here any second. I’ll see you after school.” She headed toward the front door. “Oh, and you remember what I told you, right, about the Métis Club meeting after school today? So I’ll be late. Don’t expect me right after school.”
“You left dishes in the sink—”
“I have to go. If I stop and do them now, I’ll miss the bus, and then you’ll need to drive me to school.” Christina had the door open and was halfway out. “Sorry. I’ll load the dishwasher tonight. Okay? Bye!”
Margie watched her fifteen-year-old race across the street to the bus stop. And she was right, of course; the bus was making its way down the street, and if she had taken an extra ten seconds to have a conversation or rinse off the dishes, she would have missed it. But that was no excuse for Christina to leave them in the sink in the first place, when she knew she was supposed to rinse them and put them directly into the dishwasher.
She sighed and did it herself. She had to drive into work, and the other homicide detectives and Sergeant MacDonald wouldn’t know whether she had left five minutes later because of her daughter or if she had just hit the lights wrong or run into a traffic snarl on Blackfoot Trail. She checked the table and counter for any other orphaned dishes and didn’t find any. In another minute, she had the dishwasher running, Stella was settled for the day, and Margie was walking at a quick clip out to her car. It was a cool, crisp morning.
“Oh, Detective Pat!” called Mrs. Rose, a sweet little old lady who was the first and only owner of the 1960s bungalow next to Margie’s.
Margie stopped, anxious to get on her way but not willing to be rude or pretend that she hadn’t heard Mrs. Rose’s call. She took a couple of steps toward her neighbor, but stopped the prescribed two meters away. “Yes, Mrs. Rose? What can I do for you?”
“I just wanted to make sure that you had heard that the 55+ Society is open again.”
Margie’s expression must have betrayed her consternation at this announcement. Mrs. Rose smiled her sweet, pink-lipstick smile. “The 55+ Society. It’s over there on Twenty-Sixth Avenue, where your grandfather lives.”
“And it’s been closed since the whole pandemic thing. But they’ve opened up again. And they have lots of programs for the seniors in the area. You should take a look at the activities and clubs that they run, see if there is anything that your grandfather would like to go to.”
“Oh! Okay, I will,” Margie agreed. She would see if there were anything that might interest Moushoom. “Thank you for letting me know.”
“They probably have flyers in the lobby of the building he lives in. But if they don’t, the 55+ Society is just about a block away. You can stop in there any time they are open and get their program guide. And they can give you a tour. They’re very helpful over there.”
“That’s great. I’m glad you let me know.” Margie gave Mrs. Rose a firm nod, then turned back toward her car. “Have a wonderful day.”
“I will, dear. You too.”
* * *
The workday passed quickly. The homicide team was working on a number of open cases, but none of them was burning hot. It was a matter of chasing down leads one at a time. Doing background checks on persons of interest, interviewing them, looking for connections or alibis. The day-to-day work of a homicide department.
She found it easier to move from one case to another than to stay focused on one all day, so she gathered shorter tasks from the primary investigator on each of the cases, read the file to bring herself up to speed, and worked on her assignment. Then she would jump to the next case.
No one on the team seemed to mind her ADHD approach. They were happy to have some of the less-desirable tasks taken off of their hands. Margie was eyeing the clock, trying to decide whether she would have time to review one more case before leaving for the day when Sergeant MacDonald—Mac—walked up to her desk. He was a tall man, towering over her when she was sitting down. His hair was almost entirely silver and he had lines of ‘experience’ around his mouth. He readjusted his thin-rimmed glasses.
“Yes, sir?” Margie immediately tried to think of what she might have done to attract his attention. Good or bad, she didn’t want to be under the sergeant’s scrutiny too often. Too much praise from him and the rest of the team would resent her, and too much criticism… well, any criticism was likely to keep Margie up half the night with anxiety over her mistake and how to avoid making it again in the future. No one liked being criticized, and Margie felt that she was particularly thin-skinned about it. She criticized herself for not accepting criticism well. How was that for a fault?
“I’ve got a case for you. I know you like to be home when your daughter gets home from school, but this one is going to need your immediate attention.”
The duty room was still as everyone else listened in. Margie had just solved the Fish Creek Park murder case. The next case should have gone to someone else. Although everyone else already had active files and Margie did not, so maybe that was why he had picked her.
“Uh, yes sir. She’s going to be later today and, of course, when it’s urgent, I can take the time I need to get started on it. She’s old enough to be on her own for a few hours if I’m needed elsewhere.”
She didn’t ask him what he had for her but, of course, that was the question on the minds of everyone in the room.
Mac nodded his appreciation. He ran his fingers through his short gray hair and leaned on her desk. “Here’s the thing. It’s the same MO as the Fish Creek Park murder.”
Margie’s eyes went wide. She stared at him in surprise. “The same MO?”
Robinson had been killed with a single stab wound. Margie had caught the killer. So they knew that it wasn’t the same killer. Just because another person was killed by a stab wound, that didn’t make it the same killer or the same case.
“The same MO,” MacDonald agreed. “It’s another provincial park. Male victim. Single stab wound with a single-edged blade. Bled out. No apparent provocation, no one heard yelling or was aware that anything was wrong. Body discovered by a family walking the trail with a toddler in a stroller.”
Not a dog-walker this time. But Margie was sure there were probably a number of dog-walkers close by. That one difference didn’t make the case different from the Fish Creek murder.
She hoped that the toddler hadn’t seen anything and wasn’t old enough to remember it later. Hopefully, she had been sleeping peacefully in the stroller at the time. It was a good time for an afternoon nap.
“Okay. I’ll look up this park and go see,” Margie agreed. “Is it near Fish Creek Park?”
“No. Halfway to Cochrane. It’s actually outside of Calgary city limits, but we are heading it up because of the connection to the Fish Creek case. Since it looks like the same killer.”
“It’s not, though,” Margie pointed out.
“There’s always the possibility that we got the wrong person for the Fish Creek murder.”
“But he admitted to it. We didn’t get the wrong person.”
“I don’t think so either. But innocent people do confess. It’s also possible that he was released on bail or under his foster father’s supervision and is no longer in custody.”
“But if this other park isn’t close to his home… how would he get there? He couldn’t walk there like he did to Fish Creek. Is there a bus that goes all the way out there?”
“No, I don’t think there’s any bus service out there. Tours maybe. I’m sure it’s not related. But because of the similarity in the cases and the sites of the homicide, it’s your case.”
“Okay. Give me the details.” Margie looked at her watch. If she remembered correctly, Cochrane was west, toward the mountains. Margie’s home was in the east, on the opposite side of the city. She was going to be more than an hour or two late getting home for Christina. Just the travel time would add an extra hour, forget any investigative work and waiting for someone from the medical examiner’s office.
“Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park,” Sergeant MacDonald told her. He spelled it out for her. “Do you want directions?”
“Will it be on my GPS? If it’s outside of the city, it might not be…”
“Should be. It opened in 2011, so it’s been there long enough”.
There were several C-Train stations down the middle of Crowchild, and the trains ran past her every few minutes. They were packed with people. Despite the pandemic and all of the new protocols to follow, a lot of people were back to working downtown, and they all needed to get home to the outlying areas. She glanced as another train went by. Most people were masked, in compliance with the by-law recently put into place mandating masks in public places and the transit system in particular. Infection numbers were down, and she hoped that they stayed low despite the reopening of the schools.
Over to her right, there was a big white temple spire with a gold figure on top. The speed of the traffic was picking up, so she couldn’t gawk at it for long, but it was pretty. A surprise to see something like that at the edge of the city. In another minute, she had reached city limits and Crowchild Trail had turned into Highway 1A.
There were rolling hills, but not a lot of trees like she had expected to see. She remembered how thickly Fish Creek Park had been treed and had expected the same type of scenery. There were fields and farmyards and small stands of trees here and there.
After a while, the GPS warned her to get into the left lane, and Margie obeyed, though she couldn’t see any sign of the park. It seemed strange to have a park all the way out there. They wouldn’t get foot traffic like Fish Creek Park did. A road sign announced that Glenbow Park was three kilometers away, but the GPS urged her to turn immediately. She watched for a break in the oncoming traffic and turned left onto a gravel road. Once on the gravel road, there were a few houses off to the left and thick trees to the right. The gravel road was on an incline, down into a valley. Margie slowed down and took the gravel and the curves in the road carefully.
Zipping down them like it was an emergency wouldn’t do her any good. She couldn’t save the man who was already dead, and if she ended up with her car in the ditch, it was just going to take that much longer to get done. Not to mention the reputation she would get. Detectives often ended up with nicknames within the department, and she did not want to be “Ditch” Patenaude.
It was farther than she would have expected. There was a public parking area, but Margie saw a gray-shirted officer standing up by a locked gate, watching the incoming traffic. She drove up to him. He bent down to talk through her window. He wasn’t wearing a mask, and Margie pulled back, a little irritated that he would get so close to her.
“Are you the detective?” he asked. “Uh, Detective Pat?”
“Patenaude,” Margie agreed. “That’s me.”
“Come on through, and drive down to the parking area beside the house.” He pointed in the direction of a big ranch house. “I’ll walk down to you after I lock up here.”
Margie waited while he swung the big gate open, then drove down to the lot he had pointed to. The house had perhaps been someone’s home before the creation of the park. It had the feel of a family home rather than a conference or education center built by the government.
Margie put on her mask and got out and stretched, looking around. After the golden brown grass on the fields and hills up above, she had expected a stark setting. But down in the valley, there was lush green growth—lots of trees, long grass, and wildflowers. Bees buzzed around her and orange butterflies fluttered here and there. Despite being the site of a murder, everything seemed peaceful and pleasant.
The Conservation Officer who had let her in the gate walked down to her. “Is this your first time in the park?”
“Yes. I’m just new to Calgary. So I’ve seen Fish Creek Park, but that’s about it. I guess you heard about that.”
“Yeah. It was in the news and as soon as we came across the body here… well, it was just too similar to ignore. We called the RCMP; it’s their jurisdiction, but they looped your department in right away. You’re the one with the deep knowledge on the Fish Creek case, so you get control.”
“Is the RCMP already here?”
“They sent a couple of guys out. Our Conservation Officers controlled the scene. Just waiting on you.”
“How about the forensic team and the medical examiner? Have they been notified?”
“Notified, but not here yet. It takes a while to get out here, as I’m sure you found.” He looked at his watch. “An hour since we called you. And it’s rush hour.”
Margie nodded. “Okay, thanks. So, where is your body? I gather it’s not in the house?” She tilted her head toward it.
“No. We all manage to get along pretty well in the Park Office.” He gave her a roguish grin. “No murders there yet.”
“I’m CO Richardson.” He put out his hand to shake.
Margie shook her head. “Sorry, no unnecessary contact,” she apologized. He should have known that. The police force, by the nature of their contact with the public at large, were already at higher risk of infection. She didn’t want to be out of work due to a virus or quarantine, or to inadvertently pass something on to Moushoom, who was vulnerable due to his age.
Richardson rolled his eyes and lowered his hand. “If you’ll come with me, I will take you to the scene.”
Margie nodded. She got out of the car. “How far is it? I can walk a ways…”
At Fish Creek Park, the murder site had been too far from the parking lot for her to comfortably walk there to investigate. She hoped that the distance would be shorter at Glenbow.
“We have almost forty kilometers of trails. The body is only a couple of clicks away, but if you want to get home to your family tonight…” He looked at his watch. Margie was sure he wanted to get back to his regular duties as well, or to sign off at the end of his day. A murder scene might be an exciting novelty, but preserving the scene and dealing with curious visitors would be a pain. And it got dark early this late in the year. Everyone would want to have the scene cleared before it was too dark to see.
“Lead the way,” Margie sighed. “One of these days, I’m going to have to come explore some of these parks for recreation instead of a murder investigation.”
“You like to walk?”
“Yes, I do. I’d like to do more. There are some multi-use trails near my house, but so far, all I’ve been able to do is walk the dog on the closest ones.”
“Where do you live?”
“In the southeast.” Margie knew enough now not to mention that it was close to Forest Lawn or part of Greater Forest Lawn. She didn’t think that the area warranted the reputation it seemed to have all over the city. “Near Pearce Estate Park, if you know where that one is?”
“Oh, sure. Harvie Passage is over there. Where the weir used to be.”
Margie shrugged, not sure of any of this. Richardson correctly interpreted her reaction.
“The weir was there for a lot of years. People would go boating or fishing over there, or swim or fall in, and they would get killed in the weir, because of the way that the water going over the weir would create a circular flow.” He twirled a finger horizontally to demonstrate. “Getting caught in it would just keep spinning you over and over, like being stuck in a washing machine.”
“So eventually, they built out a series of rapids to replace the weir. They take rafters down the river in a series of steps so it is not so dangerous. It took a few tries to get it right, but it’s all in place now, much better than it was. It’s named the Harvie Passage, after the same family as used to live here,” he pointed to the ranch house as he led her to the garage, “the same family as donated the lands for the park.”
“Wow. A pretty philanthropic family.”
“They are,” he agreed. “There are a lot of things named after them and after Glenbow in and around Calgary. You’ll come across a lot of them. The Glenbow Museum. The Dorothy Harvie Gardens. The Glenbow Park Ranch Foundation was set up by the family and shares this building with Alberta Parks. The foundation runs the Visitor Center, other park education and programming, and various other projects.”
He used a keypad to let himself into the garage and directed Margie to one of the golf carts waiting there. “We’ll drive over in this.”
In a few minutes, they were driving slowly down the pathway, working their way past the walkers, runners, and cyclists enjoying an afternoon at the park. It was a more open area with little shade, and she could see the rolling vistas. She could see mountains on the horizon, under bright blue sky and washboard clouds. She turned her head to look back toward the city. She could see the downtown skyline in the other direction.
“Do you like the water?” Richardson asked.
“Just wondered if you would be interested in rafting down the Harvie Passage. Since you live close to it. People often don’t take advantage of the facilities that are closest to them.”
“Me… no, I’m not really interested in boating or watersports. I know the Canoe Club is close too, just off of the trails where I walk Stella. But I don’t think I’ll be taking any lessons.”
He gave her a look, then nodded and continued to navigate around the many park walkers. It had been a cool day, and Margie was surprised that there were so many people out in the park. But apparently, they knew enough to dress in layers and be prepared for changes in the weather. Calgary was notorious for its changeable weather. Margie thought she had seen flakes of snow that morning when she took Stella out. It seemed awfully early in the year for snow, and she hoped that winter would hold off for another month or two.
She could see the pale blue river off to her left as they drove through the hills. Margie thought they were traveling roughly west.
“That’s the Bow,” Richardson said, nodding to the river. “Same river as goes past Pearce Estate Park. And Fish Creek Park, for that matter.”
Margie imagined boating all the way from Glenbow Ranch Park, though the city, out to Fish Creek Park. It made her a little queasy thinking about it. All of that water rushing downstream. The picture that Richardson had put into her mind of a body tumbling over and over at the old weir. Her throat felt like it would close up just thinking of all of that water over her head.
“You don’t think this murder is related to the body out at Fish Creek Park, do you?” Richardson inquired.
“No. We caught the killer in that case. I don’t think it’s related in any way, other than the fact that the body was discovered in a park.”
“And he was stabbed.”
“Right. But that’s not particularly unique. Lots of people get stabbed.”
He nodded in agreement. “True.”
They started going uphill again, into an area more heavily treed. The pathway was narrower and gravel rather than paved. “This is part of Tiger Lily Loop. A short loop. Nice for families. You avoid the steep hill that you need to use to get to the rest of the park.”
It was still pretty hilly. Margie studied the landforms and vegetation with interest and looked up to the sky to watch birds wheeling around them.
“If you’re lucky, you could see our osprey. It’s quite something to see them diving into the water for fish.”
“Wow, yes. What other kinds of animals do you have out here?”
She was glad that the dead body was, as far as anyone had said, a fresh kill, and had not been subject to predation. There must be some large predators in the park, considering its size.
“Plenty of different birds and insects. There are bee and bird counting programs. Ground squirrels—you know, gophers. Badgers. Coyotes. Porcupines. Mule deer. You’ll see the cattle; they still graze the park lands as part of the vegetation management program. There is an occasional bear sighting and we are on the lookout for cougar. But there haven’t ever been any attacks on humans. The animals will do their best to avoid people and dogs.”
Margie hung on as the cart climbed a steeper part of the trail. They were into the shadows of the trees and there were fewer hikers around.
Then they reached the yellow tape. Richardson hit the brakes and parked the cart. “Here we go.”
Margie climbed out. There were a couple of conservation officers and RCMP uniforms. Margie nodded at the nearest RCMP officer. He was wearing a gray shirt similar to the conservation officers’, with a tactical vest.
“Good to see you. I’m Sergeant Shack. You’ve been briefed?”
“I don’t know much, other than the fact that there was a stabbing victim, similar to the Fish Creek murder that we just put away.”
He nodded. “Not many details to give you at this point. You want to come have a look?”
“That’s what I’m here for.”
She stopped to put on protective gear to keep her from contaminating the crime scene, and they worked their way around the perimeter of the tape rather than through the middle. Margie took each step carefully, eyes alert for anything that might be evidence, even outside the tape. Then they ducked under the tape and moved toward the center of the cordoned-off area.
“Male, mid to late thirties,” Shack said. “Doesn’t appear to be robbery. No sign of a fight, no one has come forward who witnessed an argument or violence between the victim and someone else.”
Margie nodded. Similar to the Fish Creek murder. She studied the body. The man was on his back so she could see the location of the stab wound. “I might be wrong, but I think the point of entry is a bit higher than the one in Fish Creek,” she said. She leaned closer to get a better look at the body without touching it or compromising anything else at the scene. “Hard to judge his height and the angle of entry from this position.”
“Your suspect in the Fish Creek case…”
She raised her brows at Shack. “Yes?”
“It was a juvenile offender?”
“Yeah. Tall for a fourteen-year-old, but still not an adult. How long ago, do you think?” Margie had nitrile gloves on. She touched the man’s wrist to gauge his temperature. She couldn’t feel any warmth through the thin layer of protection. It hadn’t just happened. But she knew it had been over an hour since the Calgary police had been called in. Presumably, it had taken some time to sort out who should be involved in the investigation, and the family with the toddler had not reported seeing or hearing any violence, so the body had probably been lying there for some time before they saw him.
“Medical examiner will give us a better idea,” Shack said. “I’m not sure yet. There’s no predation or significant insect activity, so probably not long. It’s close enough to the trail that you would think someone would have noticed him within a couple of hours.”
“Oh yeah. Maybe early morning, but I’d be more inclined to think that it happened while the park was open. The conservation officers are pretty good at keeping people off of the park until it opens. You can’t catch everybody, of course, but there’s only one public lot, and not many people hike in.”
Margie looked back in the direction of Calgary. “That would be quite a hike.”
“Pretty impossible to come in from Calgary, actually. You need to take the highway, because there’s no trail access through Haskayne Park yet. Eventually, there will be, but for the moment, Glenbow is cut off from the Calgary trail system.” He pointed the other direction. “Cochrane, on the other hand, is only a couple of clicks away, and there are some pathways into the park from there.”
Margie pulled out her notebook and made a couple of notes. “And those pathways would not be patrolled.”
“Not likely. Checked now and then, but the CO’s are going to be focusing on the public parking area.”
Margie looked around. “How many people come through this trail during the day?” It seemed unlikely that a murder had been committed while people walked by on the trail. It would take a pretty bold murderer.
“You’ll have to get those details from the CO’s. They might have some video footage too. But it’s not busy. You can often walk this area and only see a few other visitors. It’s relatively remote.”
“The family that found him, are they still around?”
“They had a kid. Couldn’t stay around for long, but they left their information. You can call or go see them.”
Shack pulled out his notebook and relayed the contact information he had taken down from the witnesses. Margie wrote it in her own book.
“Did the child see…?”
“No. I don’t think so. Didn’t seem to be upset about anything except having to sit around while the grown-ups talked instead of exploring.”
“Good. You always worry about trauma.”
“If she saw him, she probably didn’t understand what was going on. Just that someone was sleeping in the grass.” Shack looked at the body. “I mean, it’s not horrific.”
“No. You’re right.” Margie could make out the hole that the knife had made and the darker areas of the shirt where blood had soaked into it. No pools of red blood or gore.
They could hear a vehicle approaching and all turned to look for it. In a few moments, a white van came into view.
“Medical Examiner’s office,” Margie observed. “Hopefully, they’ll have a few answers for us.”
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